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India to use survey to weed out people illegally residing in country

NEW DELHI — India will conduct a national citizen survey to weed out those living illegally in the country, the government said Wednesday.

Home Minister Amit Shah said people from all religions who can prove they are Indian citizens will be included in a National Register of Citizens. He did not give a time frame for the survey in the country with 1.3 billion people.

Shah’s announcement in Parliament came months after a mammoth survey in north-eastern Assam state, where about 1.9 million of the state’s more than 32 million people were excluded from a registry as undocumented immigrants.

The state said those left out would have an opportunity to prove their citizenship at tribunals set up by the government.

“People from all religions who are Indian citizens will be included. There is no question of any discrimination on the basis of religion,” Shah said in response to concern that his Hindu nationalist-led government might target minority Muslims.

Major waves of refugees arrived in India after partition in 1947, when British colonialists split India and Pakistan into two independent countries, and in 1971, when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan.